For Zion I Shall Not Be Silent
Now is the time when immigration policy must serve the country. We are making our borders more secure, improving monitoring systems to track the movements of international students and foreign visitors, safeguarding dual use technology against unauthorized transfer, and curtailing visa issuance to nationals of states that sponsor terrorism. But there is no more important weapon to protect the nation than repeal employer sanctions now and forever. What? Reward unlawful behaviour in the guise of national security? Get serious.
I am. Start first from the proposition that most, if not all, of the enforcement initiatives listed above will become law. Like a rock rolling inexorably down a steep hill, the political momentum behind these measures has been building since September 11. We who doubt their wisdom best express our concerns by modifying their most ill-conceived aspects, rather than outright opposition that would be a futile, if self-satisfying, exercise in political theatrics. In a larger sense, the argument that the rights of some will be infringed may, on some rare occasions, have to give way to the even more pressing imperative that the nation must be preserved. As Lincoln rightly noted in the midst of an even bloodier conflict when asked to justify the suspension of habeas corpus, "what good is a Constitution without a country?" Advocates of more and better-planned immigration must not be, or be seen by the public at large, as the opponents of stricter enforcement. Who among us can doubt the wisdom of giving those responsible for the public safety the weapons to discharge their sacred trust? Yet, to be truly effective, enforcement must be balanced by positive action that seeks to integrate those already here into American society so that their individual prosperity redounds to everyone's benefit. Tougher laws honestly enforced are not the enemy of, but the logical precedent for, an enlightened immigration strategy that marries prevention with the creation of opportunity.
America lacks the will or the desire to deport the undocumented, nor would any attempt to do so make sense. Yet the presence of the undocumented is a fact that cannot be ignored or wished away. Their presence reflects nothing so much as the divorce between immigration law and economic reality. These are the people who work at hard, dirty, unglamorous jobs whose performance we all take for granted. Remove these workers, force us to do these same backbreaking tasks, and we will soon realize the importance of their labors. Beyond that, any serious attempt to improve national security, cannot leave the undocumented on the fringes of American life, shut off from both hope and reform, largely immune from government stimulus. Bring them in out of the shadows. We need to know who they are, where they live and what they do. Make them taxpayers whose dollars can finance the security measures forced upon us by events. Give them hope of a better life and allow their children to be healthy and educated. Yes, this rewards them for being here in violation of the law, but it also give them a greater stake in the security of the country and improves the economic bottom line. The essential lesson is that giving these workers a way to participate fully in the economy rewards all of us.
There are those cautious souls who warn against dramatic action or bold suggestions in this troubled time. Keep your head down, they tell us; wait until times get better and the country heals. Then, but not before, try to regain lost ground. The nation does not need such reticence. More than ever, we who love America and yearn for it to honor its heritage as a nation of immigrants must remember the ancient admonition of Ezekiel who, when confronted by skeptics that questioned the wisdom of speaking out on the great controversies of that day, reminded all who heard him of a fundamental truth that calls out to us as well: "For Zion, I shall not be silent."
About The Author
Gary Endelman practices immigration law at BP America Inc. The opinions expressed in this column are purely personal and do not represent the views or beliefs of BP America Inc. in any way.